I just came home from a two week painting trip to the Rockies with not a single sale, not a single award, and my van filled with wet paintings. Was it productive?
Does that sound bitter? Okay, let me try again.
Hi honey, I’m home. How was your trip? Well it was wonderful, I painted in some wonderful places with some outstanding artists, and have over 25 paintings of the journey, how was your time?
There are times that I lose sight of my goal, and what I love to do the best.
Why is that?
Here in America, (this I know from hands on experience) we are raised to be competitive, to be better than the others. With contests and grades, and gold stars passed out for excelling at any given activity. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but as that gawd awful saying I keep hearing now-a-days goes… “it is what it is!”
Is it like this in other countries? You tell me, I’ve done the islands, and while there all I cared about was swimming, eating, and hiking. But from what I see on the news, and read in the paper it’s not just us “Yanks” who are caught up in this.
When I sat down with Rick Howell what seems like many many years ago, though it wasn’t all that long, we set out short term and long term goals. Winning contests, and beating everyone else was not on either one of the lists.
My ultimate goal was to paint. Was it to travel the world and paint? No, just paint. Presently I travel so much because I feel it’s necessary at this moment in time to help my career as an artist, which will eventually allow me to “just paint”. And then this involves taking part in contests, and exhibits. Don’t get me wrong, I love a little competition, and I like coming out on top. It’s a great feeling to know that at least this juror really likes what you did, and of course doing this helps immensely in allowing one to maybe one day “just paint”.
But how does it fit in in your “grand scheme” of life? I know there will always be someone better, and I really don’t mind if everyone is better as long as I can continue to paint and to grow as an artist. It’s like trying to get to the front of the all the cars on the highway by speeding past everyone. There will always be cars in front of you. Learn to accept that. It’s a long road out there with no real end, just sit back and try to enjoy the ride.
Sometimes I lose sight as I travel the country taking part in exhibits and paint-outs, though I believe it is interesting to see how you “stack up” to the others. I almost said compare, but I think the best thing for you to compare to is your last painting. How does it rate when you put it next to that? Did you improve, if not why? What is it about this painting that makes it different, or the same? This is how one should measure themselves.
Becoming a Master Engraving Artist I studied under 30 different Master Engravers, each for a month. You listen, you watch, you study. Find what works best for you and then leave what does not.
This is the same approach I am taking to my painting. Learn from those whose art I love, but being careful about comparing my work to theirs. Sure I would love to be as good as Aspevig, or Sargent, but I still want to be me. So I paint some more and then do it again.
What I use to measure success should not be the ribbons or checks I receive, but how far my work has improved in such a short period of time. Sometimes that’s hard to do, but try taking the best 4 or 5 paintings from each year and put them in a chronological order and then measure.
Which way are you going?
Are you liking the way your paintings are coming out, do they say what you want them to say? I know better than to line my best paintings up against some of my favorite artists work. For me it would only depress me and make me wonder what I am doing here.
So I don’t or try not to, and this way I am a much happier person.
I paint because the way it makes me feel when I do. I get lost in it at times and sometimes overcome with a great feeling of contentment. I study them because I want to improve upon myself and my work, and I challenge myself inwardly.
I do no 30 paintings in 30 days challenges, or 24 in 24 hours. I just paint when I can, and try to reach toward my goals that I have set before me. They are not ridiculous goals though when setting them out so long ago some did seem somewhat insurmountable. Yet I have achieved many, and am steadily progressing towards them all.
How do you measure success?